California Competes Launches Cross-Sector Career Readiness Pilot with Investment from ECMC Foundation


Regional pilot in Los Angeles will build capacity and alignment between higher ed and county government programs to advance career readiness.

California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy, a research nonprofit focused on higher education and workforce policy, is launching a new pilot program to advance career readiness within California’s community colleges through practice and policy reforms, as well as improved coordination with employers and related government agencies.

With a $500,000 grant from ECMC Foundation, California Competes will work with a cohort of community colleges in central Los Angeles to analyze and streamline institutional workforce development programs and processes as well as create an avenue for cross-sector collaboration, learning, and collective impact.

“Colleges and the local government in which they reside have shared goals to promote the economic success of its community members, and so, career readiness is a shared responsibility,” says California Competes Executive Director Dr. Su Jin Jez. “With ECMC Foundation’s investment, we can create a blueprint for cohesiveness and intention around career readiness and workforce development efforts—across institutions, government agencies, and employers—that will optimize education-to-work transitions for students and promote economic prosperity for not only the individuals but also for the wider local and state economies.”

The two-year initiative kicked off in April, and the participating colleges are Compton College, El Camino College, Los Angeles Southwest College, and West Los Angeles College. In addition, California Competes has partnered with Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s team to support connections to county-administered social services and workforce development programs.

As the world begins to rebound from the economic turbulence brought forth by the pandemic, this work aims to support an equitable recovery through institutional restructuring that confronts education-to-employment challenges head on. The goal is to build a foundation of promising practices that strategically weaves career readiness across students’ postsecondary experiences, builds institutional capacity, and creates a productive workforce that strengthens the economy. Efforts from this initiative can then be scaled across various institutions, regions, and the state.

“We’re excited to support California Competes to help a network of institutions improve campus processes and organizational structures related to career and technical education and advance postsecondary education and workforce alignment,” says ECMC Foundation Senior Program Director of Career Readiness Jennifer Zeisler. “We look forward to this project serving as a model for other regions and states looking to better prepare historically underrepresented students for the evolving middle-skills job market of the 21st century.”

About California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy

California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy is a research and advocacy nonprofit centered at the intersection of higher education, equity, and the economy. Through its nonpartisan, rigorous research, California Competes advises decisionmakers on higher education and workforce policies that bring equitable opportunities for every Californian to achieve growth and success. For additional information, please visit, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About ECMC Foundation

ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation with a mission to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations— through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under ECMC Group ( enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential.

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